I started Kindergarten with a The Empire Strikes Back lunchbox.

Oh my lord, I loved that lunchbox. I chose it carefully, precisely because I was a huge Star Wars fan, and dreamt of being Han Solo. Forget Leia and her oversized buns. I wanted to be the rogue, the ne’er-do-well, the cad.

Here’s what I remember about that first day:

1. Most little girls do not carry lunchboxes illustrating any part of the Star Wars franchise.

2. Little girls can be assholes.

I distinctly remember sitting down at the lunch table next to a gaggle of girls who all had lunchboxes plastered with My Little Pony, Barbie, Rainbows Up My Ass, etc..

“Look at her lunchbox,” one of them hissed.

Giggles ensued, and then I was cleanly ignored.

I guess I had the last laugh…I was in kindergarten for a month or so and was then moved up a grade. See ya, pink-lunchbox-sneerers.

I then found myself surrounded by towering first-graders…but that’s another story.

I’m watching C jr. navigate life with her own set of preferences…the glasses she chose even though the optometrist told her they made her face look “harsh”…the striped socks she wears pulled up all the way…the giant basketball sneakers that make her look like a pixie-jock…she dons these items and pretty much dances through life.

How many times have we been told You can’t ______? or You’re not supposed to ______? Blah blah blah. Who freaking cares? When I think about how much energy I’ve spent over the years, agonizing (that’s not an exaggeration) over what to wear for an event, or stressing out about how I might be perceived, or wrestling with a seemingly life-changing decision (they aren’t always)…good god. Exhausting. And totally unnecessary.

I finally have these lightening bolts of clarity that are totally liberating. Sometimes it manifests in yelling at a stranger…as I did recently when I heard this asshat make a racist remark right in front of me. “Hey!” I said, “That’s not okay!” “But I’m Asian,” he protested lamely. “IT DOESN’T MATTER,” I hollered. Jesus.

Or maybe it comes in the form of choosing to wear jeans to a recent event that involved many celebrities and lots of free drinks. I had this dressy outfit all ready to go, and then I thought, wait. I want to be comfortable. I want to sit down without thinking about it. I want to be able to run if I need to. So dammit, I wore jeans. And felt fantastic.

Just for the record, I continued to love that Empire Strikes Back lunchbox until it rusted and fell apart. Long live Han Solo.

These aren’t seismic revelations, but to me, they matter. I’m more and more interested in living a life that looks fear in the face and doesn’t blink first. Acting is one way of doing this, and thank god it’s been a part of my life. As an actor I can cry, rail, protest, fury, but it’s still within a relative safety.

Then again, deciding to leave a 14-year relationship required a serious staring contest with fear.

I won.

And that’s another story.

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